Friday, May 27, 2016

The Ugly Duckling Debutante by Rachel Van Dyken

The Ugly Duckling Debutante (The House of Renwick, #1)The Ugly Duckling Debutante by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wrote a review, but my mom borrowed my computer and closed the browser before I saved it. My fault for not saving it. I wasn't that happy with the review, so here's my second chance.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and it almost got five stars, but things sort of fell apart around the climax. I don't like manufactured drama, and the blowup near the end felt like that to me. While I agree that keeping secrets from people and being dishonest is wrong, it was clear that the situation that makes Renwick blow up at Sara could have easily been resolved with a long discussion. That's why my rating went down to four stars.

Otherwise, this is a feel good Regency romance that makes me remember how much I love reading historical romance. Renwick is actually a Rake hero that I felt sorry and sympathetic for. He actually did all the rakish things that hurt his reputation, and what he did was pretty bad. But he suffered for it, was repentant about it and turned over a new leaf. Laying eyes on Sara was testing his resolve in the worst way. Sara was raised to believe she was as ugly as sin, and when people said she wasn't normal, she winced. The truth was she was ridiculously gorgeous. That reminded me of Lord Dain from Lord of Scoundrels, who believes he's ugly, but is merely gorgeous in an unconventional way. Sara's lack of self esteem is understandable, but I like that she is feisty too. She doesn't let Renwick walk all over her, although she is definitely susceptible to his allure (and who could blame her?).

I liked the humor a lot and the chemistry between Renwick and Sara is dazzling. They can't seem to keep their hands off each other. This is a fade to black kind of romance, and I did miss love scenes. I don't always have to have them, but in this case, the missing love scenes were a bit of a let down. I really rooted for their happy ending together, and that's part of why the Big Miss was so annoying to me. Fortunately, the story finds its feet and the ending is so lovely, with an awesome epilogue.

I would recommend this series to Kindle/ebook readers looking for good romance that you might never find in the print section of your bookstore and library. Renwick is scrumptious and not to be missed by those readers who have a weakness for rakes of the reformed or soon-to-be-reformed variety. Sara is the kind of historical heroine you can't help but love.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Savage Destiny by Amanda Browning

Savage DestinySavage Destiny by Amanda Browning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this about a month ago, but didn't get a chance to review it or add it to my currently reading shelf. It's a great second chance at love book with a twist. Alix has every reason to hate Pierce and distrust him for the cruel way he treated her the first time they were married, and with him back, she can't believe he has good motives. The author does a great job of showing the reader they whys and how much Pierce really does love Alix. Alix doesn't want to believe (and can't afford to), that Pierce has good motives, so Pierce has to show her. I can see why she was so resistant and cynical about him. He had to prove herself to him and he did. I love a hero who is crazy about the heroine. After I finished this, I reread the beginning because there is such a huge revelation in what was really going on and how deeply Pierce loves Alix and regrets what he did. He had his reasons, but it was so unbelievably cruel. However, I believe that this is one hero who definitely redeems himself for the heroine.

I think I was recommended this by one of the girls on the Harlequin Presents group, and I'm glad I did get it on Kindle. It's an oldie but goodie that I definitely wouldn't have wanted to miss out on.

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Glass Houses by Anne Stuart

Glass HousesGlass Houses by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a reread, but this is my first time reviewing it. I love this book. One of my old favorites. Michael is unapologetically arrogant and used to getting his way. His aggressive businessman tactics have gotten him to the top 50 wealthiest men, but he wants to be in the top ten. He's bought up sweet real estate all over New York, particularly in one area, to build his planned towers named after himself. But one building stands in his way, the Glass House. One stubborn woman refuses to sell it. He's going to have to go in person to convince her that the worst place for her to stand is in his way. He knows he can handle her, as long as he gives her something she really wants. He never expected her to be what he wanted all along.

Laura is one determined person. She might have grown up in a privileged family, but her life hasn't been easy, with self-absorbed, demanding, and immature parents. She's determined to hold onto the familial legacy her grandmother left her specifically because she'd keep it safe. And one bossy, ruthless businessman isn't going to convince her otherwise. Laura decided that she didn't want any messy love affairs since her disastrous first time, and when she settles down, it will be with a sweet, compliant, controllable man. Too bad she has the hots for a man that isn't so easily manipulated, and in fact, manages to get her to let go of her own sense of dominance over her world.

This old favorite of mine still stands up to reread. While the secondary romance between Laura's right hand woman Susan and Frank, a male model, isn't quite as dynamic as the push and pull between Laura and Michael, it's still very satisfying, an unrequited love story. You don't know if Frank has had a thing for Susan but didn't act on it for professional reasons, or if the recent events have clarified things for him and he realizes that his shallow lifestyle was a dead end one.

The spark and the attraction between Michael and Laura still sizzle after so many years. Laura is feisty and acerbic, but inside has a vulnerability that speaks to her lack of affirmation as a young girl. Michael is very much an alpha hero, and at times a bit on the edge of being a jerk. I think he retains his appeal for me (despite not being my type, not into businessmen really) because Laura can definitely handle him, and he wouldn't do well with a woman he was more accommodating. I liked that both characters realize that their life plans are based on a narrow focus with goals that aren't achievable, because human beings can't be controlled, and we can barely control ourselves most of the time. Even though Michael is the boardroom shark type who thinks he can have whatever he wants, not usually my favorite, he was very sexy and I liked that deep down he had a good heart and had his family roots which grounded him.

The POV of the new arrival to town who's supposed to be the next big face, but is morally bankrupt and calculating underneath her flawless beauty is a good counterpoint to the two romance stories. You realize that this woman can't love anyone other than herself, and the people in her life who don't know that, soon figure it out the hard way.

I read my ebook copy, which was released about a year ago. I couldn't tell if this was rewritten slightly, but I suspect it might have been. I don't remember the Harlequin American Romance books using the 'f' word or a-hole. I'm really glad that this was released as an ebook, because it was such a good wind-down from a long day to curl up in bed with my Kindle to read this.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Playing With Fire by Derek Landry

Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant, #2)Playing with Fire by Derek Landy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays out all night fighting evil creatures and sends her reflection to school as a stand in. Heinous, and I do mean heinous villains who don't mind exploding people, along with psychopathic assassins with Southern accents who can dig through the ground and who have a favorite straight razor. Yup. That's what this book is about.

I think that this one is a lot more dark, violent and disturbing than the first book, so I'd definitely warn a parent to read it first before letting a kid younger than twelve read this. The narrator was great. I loved his accents and how he makes these very strange characters stand out. I like his intonation for Skulduggery, rather sarcastic and one of those people who really don't panic. If he does, then you're in trouble. I enjoy his relationship with Valkyrie/Stephanie. She talks to him kind of disrespectfully, but it doesn't bother him. He treats her as an equal.

There were loose ends tied up from the first book that really needed tying. Even a cameo of sorts from Valkyrie's deceased uncle who left her his house and fortune. The sorcerer world grows bigger and more complicated in this book, and Valkyrie has cause to think about the life she's chosen as the descendant of Ancients who has decided to fight the good fight. She realizes how much time she's missing out with her family.

This book is just plain weird. If you don't like weird, pass it by. If you have strong opinions on what young people should read and that list includes violent books with sorcery, monsters and psychopathic characters who have no qualms about harming a 13-year-old girl, then you won't care for this. But if you like fun, weirdly humorous, quirky, sometimes scary, and sometimes creepy crawly books with not a small degree of wish fulfillment for tweens (and messages about empowerment for young girls), then you might like this.

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Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas

Twisted CreekTwisted Creek by Jodi Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this out on audiobook and my sister and I listened to it in the car. It was a fun read. I liked that one of the narrators was male and the other was female. They alternated the parts of Allie and Luke and it was a nice touch. The male narrator sounded a bit noir, but it suits Luke being an investigator of sorts. The female narrator makes Allie sound as adorable as she is. I pictured Allie as Claire Bowen, who plays Scarlett on "Nashville."

For Luke, I pictured a younger Luke Wilson

I loved the small town, Texas atmosphere. All of the characters are quirky. They are all hanging on to life on the edge of Jefferson's Crossing, near the lake that was made when Jefferson's ancestors dammed up Twisted Creek. Allie is a very sweet young woman. Her devotion to her grandmother made me smile. Nana raised her when Allie's self-centered, good for nothing mother ran off. When Allie's grandfather died, Nana lost their farm and Allie had to leave school to help take care of Nana.
I liked this viewpoint of their relationship. It's not typical to think of a young woman who is living with and supporting and caring for an aged relative, but I'm sure it happens more than one would believe. Allie has a lot of burdens on her young shoulders, but you never get the impression she wants to get rid of that burden of caring for her grandmother, but does it willingly.

I liked the rag-tag band of Nesters (as the objectionable sheriff) refers to them. Each of them has been hurt by life, or merely decided to drop out and hang out in the fringes. When Allie and Nana arrive at Jefferson's Crossing, they establish a found family of these misfits, one that effects change for everyone in a good way.

Luke was one heck of a guy. Thomas writes Texan heroes that make me wish I met guys like that in real life living in Texas. Luke is definitely a keeper. Even though he seems like a slacker, he has some very strong reasons for being on the lake. He and Allie have great chemistry that is a good underpinning for this book, but the relationships between all the characters could actually stand on its own. I loved how he connects to Nana almost immediately and they form a strong relationship.

I adore Jodi Thomas's books. They are satisfying reads with characters that feel real and are quirky and textured. She is a great romance writer, but one of her best skills as a writer is characterization. Her larger-than-life characters come out of the page and make friends with the reader.

I have a print version of this, but I'm really glad I got the audiobook. I do have to say that the Southern accent made the narrative a bit slower than I wanted at times, since I read much faster than the narrator speaks. However, that was true to the characters.

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In the Spinster's Bed by Sally McKenzie

In the Spinster's Bed (Spinster House, #0.5)In the Spinster's Bed by Sally MacKenzie
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I have to be honest. I did not like the hero William, much at all. He was a selfish prick, in my opinion. He did come around slowly. He felt betrayed by his wife, but for good reason, but then he becomes a bad husband, visiting brothels and getting drunk, and when he decides to focus on his marriage, his wife has fallen into a depraved lifestyle. I know he was young, but he was old enough to know better. Then he goes into hiding in a small town, Loves Bridge. He sees his old flame, Belle, and decides he deserves to start hitting that again, and says something really mean to her when she says no, before they can do the dead. She had every right to stop things with a married man. Also, I didn't like that he was perfectly okay with cheating on his wife with prostitutes, but not with a respectable woman. I think prostitution is reprehensible. I don't think prostitutes deserve any less respect than any woman (even if they're paid sex workers), and I think less of a hero who believes that. While William does apologize for what he said to Belle, it left a bad taste in my mouth. As well as his double standards about his wife's behavior. She was acting out and he couldn't be a man and love her and commit to his marriage, even if she wasn't what he thought she was.

This novella pushed my buttons in the worst way about male and female relations and societal double standards that still exist today. The woman gets into trouble, and is forced to deal with it alone, and the man skips out blissful and free from responsibility. Young William didn't deserve Young Belle, and I'm not 100% sure that Old William does. She gave him her virginity and he goes off and forgets her, and leaves her to deal with a situation he definitely contributed to. Then when he sees her, he assumes she's going accommodate his horniness despite his wife back in town. Ugh. Belle definitely loved more than he did. I like that Belle is a normal woman with normal needs. I'm so glad that her conscience kicked in and she won't go through with sleeping with him, even if he's in a bad marriage. I think it would have been a dealbreaker if she did sleep with him while he was married. Women do have sex drives, and while she was celibate for many years, she still had those feelings. I hated that she was made to be the fallen woman by her awful father (a vicar of all things) while William goes off and sows plenty of wild oats, before and after his marriage (and going to prostitutes doesn't make it better than his wife's more public, less discrete behavior).

I'm really glad this was a free read. I would have been a lot madder if I hadn't read for free. I normally like this author a lot. I couldn't get past William's behavior and the blase' attitude about prostitution, which I know she's not alone about. It's treated as a casual thing but it's a social ill and it's a terrible life for those women (and often men and children). I would like to see more heroes who realize how wrong that it. Like another reader, the high point was the cat, Poppy, who becomes not just a matchmaker but a protector of the spinsters. I'm crazy in love with cats so that worked for me.

Having said that, if a reader wants to get a prequel for this series, it's free on Kindle. I have the Kindle, but I read this as a bonus novella with How to Manage a Marquess.

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars.

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The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3)The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was thrilled that my library finally got the audiobook for this latest release in the Lockwood and Co. series. I've been listening to it from the beginning and I hated to have to change format. The narrator is a different person, but she was very good. She brings Lucy, George, Lockwood and the other characters to life distinctively.

I was slightly less impressed with this than the previous books, but it was still very good. I wasn't sure I liked the addition of a new agent to the team. The trio has such a good vibe, but the advent of Holly causes some tension and throws off the chemistry. Lucy is violently jealous of her. Lucy is very possessive over Antony, and it seems as though she has a raging crush on him. Lockwood is a dashing figure (if you're a teenaged girl). I think he does have a lot of gravitas and maturity. I wish that he wasn't so oblivious to the emotions roiling around him at times. Lucy practically seethes, but he doesn't seem to pick up on it. I didn't dislike Holly, but I'm not sure exactly why Stroud chose to add her to the team. Maybe me and Lucy are on the same page here. George is his same endearing self. He's such a character. I liked that the Lockwood team actually joins forces with Quill Kipps and his two agents for the investigation of the department store that is frightfully haunted.

Lucy is delving deeper into Antony's past, and developing her ability to talk to ghosts, one that is admittedly dangerous. Like the other books, there is a spectacular climax, but that's not the end of the tension, since this one ends on a cliffhanger. I wasn't too happy with that. I hate cliffhangers.

I'm a huge fan of ghost stories, and I love Stroud's take on it. Ghosts are anything from irritating to downright lethal. And with each book, the layers get pulled back more, revealing how dangerous and disturbing a world in which ghosts are everywhere and can do humans harm might be.

Eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

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The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl #3) by Eoin Colfer

The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, #3)The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I loved The Arctic Incident so much that this was a bit of a letdown as the follow-up. Having said that, it was a very entertaining book. Even though I have a paper copy, I picked up the audiobook narrated by a favorite British actor of mine, Nathaniel Parker. He narrated the heck out of it. I loved his various accents, everything from Irish to New Yorker.

Artemis is still being a criminal genius, but his conscience is being impacted by his father's return and new lease on life, and his association with the Faery people. When his latest scheme results in a tragic outcome to one of his beloved companions and powerful fae technology falling into the hands of a megalomanic, immoral tech billionaire, he has his work cut out for him getting it back.

I still love the concept of a teenage super-genius would-be villain. I like that Artemis is still antiheroic without being sociopathic or downright evil. His character has grown and it makes him more interesting. I love his bodyguard, Domovoi Butler, so some things that happened to him weren't my favorite. His sister, Juliet has a much larger role. She's a fun character. Very much a late-teenaged girl, but also with a genetic and upbringing that makes her a lethal and capable bodyguard.

I'm a sucker for anything Faerie, so those part definitely appealed. I didn't think Holly's role was as impactful, but Mulch Diggums is always a hilarious character. He's a bit disgusting, if I'm honest, but still lots of fun.

I will say this, Colfer knows how to create some reprehensible villains. He always makes me laugh, but at the same time, there is a chilling undercurrent when you consider that these people are wanting to do terrible things to a teenaged boy (even one as annoying as Artemis Fowl). Arno Blunt is rather like the evil version of Butler, but much less awesome or cool. In other words, he's no match!

This book has some enjoyable spy action scenes and faerie happenings, which I appreciated. I think I was just so impressed with the last book, that it seemed to fall short for me. I can't say too strongly how much I will miss Butler taking more of a physical role in the books, if what has happened in this one affects future books like it seems it will.

You know I will keep reading this series.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Bride by Annie West

The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife (In the Greek Tycoon's Bed)The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife by Annie West
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would definitely take off points because the hero is a mega-jerk. He is so hateful to Tessa. I can understand his cyncism about women, but it's almost like he was angry that Tessa hadn't died as he thought previously. I think that Tessa was remarkably tolerant of Stavros. I really wanted her to stab him with a fork. No matter what she did, he perceived it in the worst light. I'm assuming he was sleeping around with other women while she was gone, but it's not directly stated. In this case, I wouldn't hold that against him, per se, because he thought she was dead. My big issue is how he's such a tool to her when it's apparent she couldn't be more different from the women in his past and his father's ex-wives. This is one of those books where I wished that the heroine had really left him and he had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get her back. Not enough groveling for my tastes. I thought the imagery was good, and Stavros had a really dark aura that scared Tessa, what you'd expect from a hero who was a very bad man, not just a tool. That was kind of interesting. I really like Anne West's books. She's a good writer. The hero was just too mean for my tastes in this one.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars

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The Secret Wife by Lynne Graham

The Secret WifeThe Secret Wife by Lynne Graham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the older Lynne Grahams that I read many moons ago, but I didn't remember most of it. It was a good reread. The hero in this was a jerk. I think Rosalie was nicer to him than he deserved, but she wasn't a pushover. He always managed to see her in the worst light, if not an avaricious femme fatale, than a spineless tart. I felt that he really did need to earn Rosalie's love. I like that he was so jealous of her roommate and friend, who was by all accounts, a beefcake. By the end, he was remorseful, but still a bit too high on the horse for my tastes. I like that his adopted mom guessed right away what was going on. That was pretty funny, considering all the changes they went through to hide the truth from her. Constantine would never be a favorite LG hero for me, but I really did enjoy Rosalie and I like that she held her own with him, or somewhat.

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One Evening in London by Rae Lori

One Evening in LondonOne Evening in London by Rae Lori
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good short novella about giving love a chance after disappointment in the past. After being burned in a somewhat similar situation, Angela doesn't trust her attraction to the handsome British publishing executive at the launch party for her novel. She rebuffs him, but ends up talking to him. He's not free at the time, and while their attraction is mutual and potent, they can't act on it. But Angela gives him her number to contact her in the future, just as a friend. A year later, to her surprise, Paul looks her up and and encourages her to pursue a relationship with him now that he's free. Can Angela get past her past hurts and take a chance on a future with Paul?

Lori's writing is smooth and descriptive. Her characters are very likable even with realistic chinks in their respective armor. Paul is a sweetie. Who couldn't fall in love with him, and if you're into British men, then you'll be especially susceptible. I like how Lori uses Jazz music as a motif to illustrate Angela and Paul's developing romance. This is really too short to be more than a happy for now, which is not my favorite, to be honest. But their genuine feelings for each other feel right and made me hope for a future for them. I wish they hadn't gone to bed together so abruptly at the end, but otherwise, this book really works for a short dose of romance for a busy reader.

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Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn (Writer), Fiona Staples (Illustrator)

Saga, Volume 5Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't like this one as much as previous volumes. Probably because Marko is separated from his family for most of the book, and the focus on Marko's ex, although I do like the little girl the bounty hunter rescued from Sextillion. It seems like the goal is to get increasingly x-rated with the content. Plenty of violence and some really overly sexual imagery in this book. I still like the concept and the fact that it's narrated by young Hazel. Alana and Marko are compelling characters and their star-crossed love story definitely appeals. Not to mention cute little Hazel. I just don't think the storytelling is as strong at it was initially.

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Lobo: Targets by Cullen Bunn, Jack Herbert

Lobo Vol. 1: Targets (The New 52)Lobo Vol. 1: Targets by Cullen Bunn
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Not the Lobo I know from the animated DC-verse shows. This is a more streamlined, deadly serious and highly lethal Lobo. I like that this book gives the reader very complex backstory on Lobo, and a new mission that is beyond just getting his bounties. In this book, Lobo is a very deadly assassin, and he's on the trail of a group of killers who took the job of blowing up earth. He gets some reluctant partners along the way.

This has a lot of mayhem and violence in it. I picked this up on impulse, so I didn't have high expectations. It's diverting and well-written. I'm not that invested in Lobo as a character, and this book didn't change that. I might read more of these if my library has them.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Fade Out, Vol.2: Act Two by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips

The Fade Out, Vol. 2: Act TwoThe Fade Out, Vol. 2: Act Two by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost don't think I'm old enough to read this--R rated and then some. Definitely the dark side of Hollywood. This volume sheds a black light on the Golden Age of Hollywood and the studio system. How many lives were wrecked in the pursuit of stardom. The characters appear to represent real life character or are composites of them. Of course, there are plenty of cameos as well. the mystery is well-written, and this book ends with a teaser that makes it impossible not to keep reading.

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Batman Incorporated, Volume 1 by Grant Morrison, et al

Batman IncorporatedBatman Incorporated by Grant Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Batman starts to realize that he's overextended. He has his hands full trying to protect Gotham City, and other places around the world could use their version of Batman. That's where Batman Incorporated comes in. He sees and investigates good candidates that can take on the Batman mantle in a worthy manner in different cities. This volume focuses on Tokyo and Paris. The Tokyo storyline is pretty over-the-top and crazy. It reminds me of the crazy nature of Japanese and Asian action films. The villain is seriously heinous, which is really par for the course with Batman heroes. The pace is pretty fast and frenetic, but not so much that I couldn't follow the storyline. As crazy as the Tokyo story was, the Paris one was more serious and somber. I like that Batman doesn't allow religious differences and cultural differences to preclude a worthy Batman. His choice for the Paris Batman is perfect and he is leaving the mantle in good hands there.

Grant Morrison is highly edgy in his graphic novels, and after the last one I read, I was leery. But this was a good book.

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Catwoman, Vol. 4: Gotham Underground by Ann Nocenti, Rafa Sandoval (Illustrations), Jordi Tarrogana (Illustrations)

Catwoman, Vol. 4: Gotham UndergroundCatwoman, Vol. 4: Gotham Underground by Ann Nocenti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Catwoman goes underground is obvious from the title.This was a bit creepy with a backwoods/Deliverance/True Blood vibe thrown in. Tribal squabbles and weirder and weirder societies. There is a whole culture of people who live in the flooded underground of Gotham, and their way of life is hard and corrupt and in some ways, just plain weird. I think there are probably some characters that are part of the Gothamverse, but I'm not familiar with them. I always like the look at historical Gotham and there is a bit of that here. Joker's Daughter shows up in this, but she's slightly different from her character in the recent Suicide Squad book where I first encountered her. Her character is really twisted. I did like the cat that wouldn't die, because well, I love cats. :)

I like these Catwoman books, but they feel a bit chaotic. It's kind of hard to keep up with the story at times. I do like that Catwoman is envisioned as a bit of a Robin Hood type thief/slash woman of the people instead of a self-absorbed, out for herself thief. Catwoman is a fun character to follow and I love seeing how each book designs her look.

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Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker (Writer), Sean Phillips (Illustrator)

Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases MeFatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely hardboiled horror. I read this during the day, but I wouldn't read this before bed. It's very dark and some of the aspects and imagery are pretty disturbing. I couldn't tell if the author was going for a Lovecraft mythos kind of vibe or more of a Satanic/black magic kind of thing. Maybe both. There are many questions, particularly about the lead female character. What is she? Who is she? Why does she lead every man she encounters down the road of destruction. The author who is a prominent character did not inspire my sympathy in any way. The sad results of his choices did bother me, but moreso because of the innocents who were hurt because of his obsession with that woman. I am not sure if I will continue this. Part of me is curious, but I didn't like the way this made me feel as I read it. I've learned to go with my gut in my reading choices. Having said that, if you like the strange intersection of genres, particularly hardboiled/noir crime thriller and horror, you might pick this up. I would give this four stars because it's very well-written.

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Fables, Vol.16: Super Team by Bill Willingham (Writer), Mark Buckingham (illustrator), Eric Shanower (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator), Terry Moore (illustrator)

Fables, Vol. 16: Super TeamFables, Vol. 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't put my finger on it, but this one wasn't a five star read for me. I think part of it's that I'm so sick of the Dark Man storyline. I just want him to be dealt with so we can move on. It was cute, how the Fables are forming a Team of heroes to fight the Dark Man, but it wasn't a strong enough concept to hang the story on. Also I didn't find the leads as compelling as Snow and Bigby are. I do like the twist with Fran Tottenkinder, but she's less present in this book as well. I just wasn't feeling this like I have past books. It's still really good, just not as good.

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Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell

The Brotherhood of the Rose (Mortalis, #1)The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this as part of a group read for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group on Goodreads. I'm glad this won the poll because it was a reason to read it sooner rather than later.

This book really shows the world of espionage and assassins in a way that feels realistic. I could be wrong, because I'm neither an assassin nor a spy, big surprise. The author takes the concept of how spies and assassins are made and starts with children who are more or less brainwashed or controlled by the need to please their father figure so that they make highly loyal 'soldiers'.

Saul and Chris are both orphans who meet in a boys school and look to Eliot as their father figure. While Saul seems to thrive in the life of an assassin, it cause Chris serious emotional damage. He is even at the point of a form a suicide which is compatible with his Catholic belief system when Eliot activates him to find Saul. Saul finished a mission for Eliot, but Eliot makes him a patsy in a huge conspiracy that involves the president's friend. When Saul and Chris unite, their loyalty as brothers supersedes the programming of Eliot as their father. From there, it becomes a game of cat and mouse where the master spy learns just how good his students are at the craft he has taught them.

This is a very good action thriller/suspense novel. It's set in the 80s, but it doesn't feel too dated, although the issues are related to that time and it goes back to the early days of what we consider the spy trade. The idea of the Abelard Sanction was brilliant. I don't know if that's real, but it seems like it would be something that actually exists. The training that Chris and Saul get to be assassins is pretty interesting and it goes beyond the typical special forces and martial arts training. One of my favorite aspects of this book was reading about the tradecraft as Saul and Chris try to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. Also liked Erika, a Mossad agent and old lover of Saul, who is Jewish. Morrell looks at religion in natural way. He doesn't treat is as a social ill, but a part of the makeup of people, although it can be manipulated by others, in the case of Chris.

I was sad about the fate of one of the characters. I wished better for that person. That's probably the one thing I would change. Otherwise, I was pretty satisfied with this book. There's even so good humor when Saul mentally torments his 'father' at the Rest Home. I checked and this was a TV movie back in the 80s. I would love a remake.

I recommend this book.

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Persuasion by Jane Austen

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It took me a while but I finished my first Jane Austen novel read! Apparently this was her last novel she wrote. My advice to Jane Austen book newbies, don't start with this one. If you like the movies and were drawn in by the romance between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, you will find that this isn't quite the focus on the novel. Instead it's about society and the way that people behave as influenced by society and others around them. Anne believed and trusted her dear friend Mrs. Russell when she advised against marrying Captain Wentworth. He was of 'low birth' and had not yet made his fortune. Out of fear, she broke off her relationship with him, and for eight years nursed a broken heart. In that time, she has seen what she rejected him for, and it has not made her happy. But when he returns, she realizes that her love for him never died.

I did enjoy the ending very much. It's a good payoff for sticking this book out. I found the writing descriptions a bit tedious and it didn't seem like Anne and Wentworth were hardly together much. Instead, we see Anne watch life pass her by, stuck with her pompous, ungrateful father who has pretty much spent their money so they can't afford to live in their house anymore. Her father and two sisters are obnoxious people, and I got this feeling of Anne living a life of quiet desperation, acceding her needs and wants to the people around her. She has had eight long years to repent her decision. When Wentworth comes back, he seems to have moved on from Anne and actually seems to dislike her (in a polite kind of way). Anne can't hold that against him, since she brought it on herself (by rejecting him) in her mind. But it hurts because he's still the man she loves.

When she meets Mr. Elliot (her cousin), she thinks he's a nice guy and he seems to have a good reputation, and is well-liked. But this is another lesson about appearances being deceiving.

Far be it for me to criticize a great author of her times, but I felt that this book was tedious in its narrative style. Especially Sir Walter (Anne's father)'s long monologues about how superior he is to everyone else, and with his sycophantic daughter Elizabeth eagerly agreeing, not to mention their (and her youngest sister Mary's) endless social climbing efforts, and Anne suffering it all in in silence. The story really gets interesting when Anne meets some of Wentworth's fellow captain friends, and her interactions with them. At the time, I wished that she was actually spending more time with Wentworth, but even as written, this was when I became emotionally connected to the story in a way that I was not before.

I think it's all about expectation. One who has seen the movies expects a straightforward romance, but this is more of a book about society and choices. The persuasion in the title refers to the fact that Anne was persuaded to make a decision that she later bitterly repented. It could also be about how people are persuaded too easily by appearance or what's on the surface or going along with the crowd.

I found Anne to be sympathetic and likeable. Eminently good-hearted, which makes her rejection of Wentworth really just a common and forgivable flaw that any young, inexperienced girl might make. The fact that the years have matured her and she has learned what is important in life makes her more sympathetic. While Wentworth is not friendly to her most of the book (often he ignores her and seems to spurn her), she doesn't hold it against him.

Wentworth's actions don't reveal much of what he's thinking. I think the major weight of his character is revealed through the high level of regard that Anne continues to hold him in, and the respect that his fellow mariners, friends and family have for him. As time progresses, he seems to warm to Anne, and you get the impression he isn't indifferent to her. His letter was wonderful and was definitely a payoff for hanging on and finishing this book. Wentworth is moved by Anne comments to his friend (that he overheard) and it gives him the courage to admit his feelings for her. It is understandable that he is slow to risk being hurt again, in that he was rejected once by her. In the end, the reader cannot be angry at Wentworth either.

This book has no true villains per se, but it shows that society different kinds of people, and there is a morale in that one must be careful what they assume about others, because the surface rarely exposes what's underneath if someone is skilled at playing the game. I think if the ending wasn't satisfying, I would have been much more disappointed in this book.

I couldn't give this more than 3.5 stars because of the plodding pace. Again, it's definitely a matter of expectations. I love the movie with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, so I think my expectations were a bit too high.

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Friday, April 01, 2016

The Vengeful Groom by Sara Wood

The Vengeful Groom (Harlequin Presents, No 1692)The Vengeful Groom by Sara Wood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good book for melodrama. Gio and Tina's passionate relationship became one of passionate hate due to a terrible accident and misunderstanding that ended with him in prison for vehicular manslaughter. Tina testified against him, and it ruined Gio's life. But Tina thought she was justified. When Gio returns years later, he wants to reclaim his relationship with his mother, who repudiated him, and to get revenge on Tina. He plans to use Tina to do both.

While Tina had good reasons for what she did, I always struggle with characters who were supposedly deeply in love, but are unable to give someone the benefit of the doubt or at least give that person the chance to defend themselves. I think Tina's insecurity over their past relationship (believing he was just using her while dating a more socially acceptable girl in town) factored heavily in her willingness to believe the worst about Gio.

This wasn't a badly written book. I just got tired of the emotional ups and down and the fact that they didn't actually talk things out. Then, all of a sudden, Tina decided she didn't believe Gio was guilty. Why did it take that long? I felt sorry for Gio for how everyone turned their back on him so easily. No one likes to believe that people who love them could do that.

Okay if you want a lot of drama and back and forth in place of talking things out.

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The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician KingThe Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it wasn't a perfect book, this is a worthy follow-up to The Magicians. There is advancement in Quentin's story, and he's actually growing up and being less of a putz. I did like Quentin more in this book, but he'll never be a favorite hero of mine. Actually, none of the lead characters are especially likable, to be honest. Julia has more of a POV in this book, and I found that I had a violent dislike for her in some aspects of the story, and mild sense of sympathy in the others. Overall, I will never be a big fan of her.

One of my big problems with Julia is that she continued to blame Quentin for her misfortunes and was unwilling to accept any fault for her own choices. Yes, she suffered from depression, but that shouldn't be an excuse to abuse and hate others who don't measure up to overweening sense of superiority. Yes, he should have spoken up for her so she could get another chance at Brakebills, but it was her fault she didn't take her exam seriously. Julia has a sense of mental superiority and a general antipathy for people that I found off-putting. She might be extremely intelligent and had become a top level magician (admittedly making huge sacrifices for that), but she didn't seem to learn how to treat others with respect. Having said that, what she suffered was beyond horrible, even if, in a strange way, it helped her to achieve what she wanted. In the end, it turned out that she gave up everything for something that turned out not to be the path to true happiness. And in a strange way, Quentin turns out to be a true friend to her in a way that she never was to him.

Grossman is a very good writer. His imagery and descriptive flare is incredible. I feel that he suffers in writing characters that are sympathetic. It's all and good to keep a reader reading because of witticisms and clever ideas, along with entrancing imagery, but many people read books because want a hero to root for. Quentin did become more of what I consider a hero, but he has some negative traits that make his armor look dull. Julia has a personality that's more like the Wicked Witch than Dorothy. How about a happy medium?

This series is not for readers who find bad language and who get offended at an acerbic and hypercritical view at traditional values. As with the first book, attitude that anything goes as far as sex and drinking and doing drugs can be hard to swallow. Also that mental superiority of the characters gets pretty old.

Why do I keep reading these books? Because I am in love with contemporary fantasy, and Grossman has a very interesting point of view on that subject. The vantage point of the hedge magicians' world was highly fascinating. Grossman takes the world-building to the next level without the narrow confines of the Brakebills system, and he doesn't limit the setting to good old Fillory, which was nice. His explanation for mythical creatures in the modern, non-magical world was a nice touch.

I wasn't too fond of the direction he took with investigating paganism as a way to achieve a higher level of magical ability and that event that resulted was really hard to read (or in my case listen to). Some readers who have an issue with rape will want to be very careful with this book. I question was that a necessary choice and I wonder why that seemed to be the way to deal tragedy in a heavy dose for one of the characters instead of another type of plot device. I also question the anti-climactic conclusion of this novel as far as Quentin's hero's journey. Having said that, I will pick up the finale in the near future.

As an aside, the SyFy Channel production of The Magicians is very good. It has much of what might appeal to readers, and is pretty faithful to the book overall.

I will keep getting the audiobooks for these because they are really good to listen to. This has a different narrator than the first book, and I think I liked him better. He was less snide-sounding. With these characters, one doesn't need more of a snide, I'm better than everyone tone.

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Batman:The Black Miirror by Scott Snyder (Writer), Jock (Artist), Francesco Francavilla (Artist), Jared K. Fletcher (Letterer), Sal Cipriano (Letterer), David Baron (Colourist)

Batman: The Black MirrorBatman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a bit hesitant about reading a Batman where it's not Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is the one and only Batman to me. Yes, I know that's not true or canon. I just love Bruce Wayne. Having said that, Dick is a good Batman. And this was a very good graphic novel collection. It's very creepy and dark. I like how everything ties together to the climax. At first, the stories seem unrelated, but they all lead down a sinister path.

The villain is someone that is deeply familiar to Dick, Commissioner Gordon and Barbara, and that makes it all the worse. The idea that someone you love could grow up to be a sociopathic/psychopathic killer is deeply disturbing. As if Gotham isn't full of enough darkness and sickness of the soul.

The artwork is suitably grim, and the look of the villain is classic and inspires dichotomy of banality and menace in the reader. I like the use of shadows and shades, along with reds and blues and oranges to illustrate the narrative.

While Dick isn't my true Batman, he'll do in a pinch.

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Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking GlassThrough the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the audiobook version for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (My Review) so much that I was happy to get the Playaway for this. The narrator is the same, and she's great. She is awesome with the varied voices. She made this more enjoyable than it would have been had I read this book.

I enjoyed this slightly less than the first book. I think this had too many poems and songs for my taste. While I enjoy poetry, I'm not a big fan of it taking over a prose narrative. A number of the scenes were quite funny, and I found myself laughing as I listened to this working on my Design project today (I laughed more with the first book though). The interactions between the three queens (including Alice) went a little too long for my tastes, but I did enjoy some of her other adventures, including the soldier who kept falling off his horse.

After the clever storytelling in the first book, this one feels like more of an afterthought. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't found the recitations tedious. I do love Alice though.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

His Bewildering Bride by Merry Farmer

His Bewildering Bride (The Brides of Paradise Ranch - Spicy Version, #3)His Bewildering Bride by Merry Farmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a lovely little romance. I'm glad it came up as a recommendation on my Amazon Kindle bookstore page. I liked the author knew a bit about the history of interracial marriage and wrote a story that showed that more of it occurred than history one would presume before the advent of Jim Crow/Segregation laws. I would have liked to live in a town like this during this point in history (when I normally think that being a black American at this time was a double-edged sword pointed at your throat). I liked that Wendy rose above the prejudice and ill treatment she faced. Born a slave but working to be an independent businesswoman. Although she faced racism, she didn't let it get to her or sour her or make her a hater. She didn't give up and I was glad to see her dreams come true.

Travis was such a sweetie. I loved him. He stepped in when his immature brother wouldn't honor is commitment to marry Wendy when he finds out that his bride is Negro. Travis was man enough to even help Wendy with her sewing so she could win the contest that might get her a shot at her own business.

While the ending ties up things nicely, it's a good ending that made me satisfied with the story. The love scenes are sweet but pretty steamy, and they show that Wendy and Travis had great chemistry, a strong bond, and true love. What a great combination. Probably the only thing I would change is for it to be longer. I will definitely continue this series. I downloaded the first book right after finishing this.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.00 stars.

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Batman: Gates of Gotham by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Kyle Higgins (Goodreads Author), Ryan Parrott, Trevor McCarthy (Illustrator), Dustin Nguyen (Illustrator)

Batman: Gates of GothamBatman: Gates of Gotham by Scott Snyder
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book delves into the history of Gotham and the four families. An interesting one to read around the time that the TV series "Gotham" just finished an arc involving one of the historical Gotham family's feud with the Waynes. In this story, it's not so much a feud with Wayne, but a historical Gotham vendetta that puts modern Gotham and its inhabitants in jeopardy. I think the artwork was very well-done, and it delves into Steampunk territory with some of the design. I would have liked it better if the layout was better arranged. It was a big confusing reading the panels and the story jumps forward and backward in time. I liked that all of Batman's team is working together to save Gotham. I squeed when I saw that Black Bat aka Cassandra Cain is actually in this book. It was good, but not great.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.00 stars.

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Dangerous Obsession by Patricia Wilson

Dangerous Obsession (Harlequin Presents)Dangerous Obsession by Patricia Wilson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I think if I don't write this review sooner, I'll forget all the details. So, yeah, it wasn't my favorite Patricia Wilson. It was good though. It was obvious Dan was in love with Anna. I could see why he was keeping his distance from her when she was younger. It was interesting to see things from Anna's eyes and then to hear about Dan's point of view. When she's older, and when the story begins in the present Dan seems to making a play for her and he's definitely staking his claim when Dan takes her to his island to recover. I was surprised at the reveal with the woman that Dan had been engaged with years ago. I didn't expect that at all. I think that I've loved some books so much by her, that this one pales in comparison. It was entertaining and I had no major issues. Anne was a bit of a wilted flower for my tastes at the time (although I liked that she was a student in higher maths) and the story slows down a bit on the island.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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His for a Price by Caitlin Crews

His for a PriceHis for a Price by Caitlin Crews
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Oh man, I loved the hero in this book. He was scrumptious. He reminded me of Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent from Devil in Winter in that he's a long, lean panther who talks like a panther purrs. He screams "I'm Bad For You, but I'm So Good!" He was delicious. He definitely goes on my lickable hero shelf. I fell hard for him because he is so super-sexy, and because he gave Hattie steadfast love in a way she'd never had before. At one point, he withdraws from her, and Hattie can't deal with that. He does it because it was difficult for him to deal with the fact that she refused to be honest with him. Hattie doesn't know how to deal with him not being in her life the way he's been for over ten years, and that is the impetus for change. That was when he realized she didn't know how. She didn't know what unconditional love was and the concept of being accepted no matter what. She spends most of the book pushing him away emotionally, and being a bit of a brat, so that tiptoes on the edge of being a bit tedious. Crews managed to change the tone soon enough that I was just burned out on it. I think the reveal for why Hattie has behaved the way she has so long was a pit too rapid in its delivery (and it felt a bit lightweight to be honest), and I would have liked better pacing in that regard. I did love the surprise that Nicodemus gets. I was really surprised myself. I like a good twist in a story.

This book is pretty heavy on internal dialogue and that probably wouldn't work for some. But I felt it was well done, and I think the characters are wonderfully complex. I think this is a nice mix of modern cultural awareness but with the old school intensity dynamic that makes many of us Harlequin Presents readers such advocates of the vintage novels. The sensuality is intrinsic and hot and underlined by the fact that these two people really love each other and can't imagine a life without each other.

I'm hoping that I enjoy His for Revenge, about Hattie's brother, as much as I did this book.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.

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Desert Prince, Blackmailed Bride by Kim Lawrence

Desert Prince, Blackmailed BrideDesert Prince, Blackmailed Bride by Kim Lawrence
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was deeper than I expected. I liked that both leads weren't exactly what they seemed. Gabby is tough and independent if not a bit reckless in her pursuit of justice. Rafiq was thoughtful and not the playboy I expected, not that he was celibate, but he wasn't promiscuous either. I didn't expect the reason why Rafiq was trying to marry Gabby to his brother. I'm glad he eventually realized how inappropriate his intentions really were. There was a dark aspect to this story, but the fact that things get resolved so easily kind of short-circuited the pathos that this story had. I think my favorite part was that Gabby was older and mature and not a young girl easily manipulated by Rafiq. It still wasn't my favorite by this author though.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Out of Control by Shannon McKenna

Out Of Control (McClouds & Friends #3)Out Of Control by Shannon McKenna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this at night before bed stretched out the process, but it was worth it. There's something about Shannon McKenna's way of writing romance. It's utterly sighworthy but extremely earthy. Sometimes I think a sacrifice is made with extra-steamy romance to convey the eroticism, and often the diehard romance is left behind. Not so with McKenna. Davy thinks he's the knight saving the princess, but he's pretty darn messed up. Margot really is an alpha heroine in a good way. When the book takes place, she's in a bad way, but it's clear that she's a very independent, competent woman. Davy spends most of the book confused and delusional about being in love with Margot, which I think would be very hard to deal with. Margot admit she's in love with Davy and he sort of throws it in her face, but at the same time, his behavior towards her suggests that he's deeply emotionally entangled with her. He is the King of Mixed Signals. I wasn't too angry at Margot when she has a crisis of faith in Davy. Based on what she's been through in the previous eight months and a history of not being able to trust men, especially men that she couldn't control the scope of their relationship with. Davy is not a man who can be compartmentalized or controlled. That's for sure. I like Margot a lot and I think she's a good match for Davy. Davy was a bit of a putz at times, but still lovable and lickable.

The villain is one sick puppy, for reals. It was a different twist. This villain being a student of the Death Touch. Being the martial arts geek I am, well I thought that was pretty interesting. His relationship with his brother was a study in dysfunctional family relationships. He was a formidable villain and definitely able to match Davy in his own enviable martial arts abilities. I wish the climax hadn't been so abrupt. I would have liked to see more of a drawn out confrontation between these two and the controlling older brother getting his just deserts in a more descriptive fashion.

It was lovely to see the other McCloud brothers and associates. They are a special bunch. The dialogue is classic. Since I read Fatal Strike before this, it was special to see Miles as the geeky apprentice. He's adorable!

This one isn't a five star book for me. I think it's more like a 4.25 star read. It doesn't have the intensity of some of my other favorites, but it's still a very good book.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor (Goodreads Author), Tom Derenick (Illustrator), Jheremy Raapack (Illustrations), Mike S. Miller (Illustrator), Bruno Redondo (Illustrator)

Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series reads like a very realistic nightmare. You know how people you know (including yourself) are doing things that are horribly wrong and there's nothing you can do to stop it? And the only hope you have is that you'll wake up soon? Yeah, that's Superman and those who subscribe to this skewed belief in justice after his terrible loss. It's weird to say you hate Superman, but I kind of do in this book. Batman is seen as the threat and the enemy, but he's like a sane voice in a nightmare of brainwashed insanity. It's not that Superman is all wrong, but he's so wrong it's enough to make your hair stand on end, considering who he and the power he has. Batman is staying very true to character in this book. He won't stop even if it costs him everything. Unfortunately, the cost of those who ally with him is very high. It's interesting to see who sides with Superman and who sides with Batman. You can probably guess without me telling you, except for maybe a couple of people. My heart hurts for what happens in this book. I can't say I regret reading it, but this is really like a Justice League nightmare in technicolor. FYI, this is a prequel to the video game. You don't have to be into video games to get into this.

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Wolverine Goes to Hell by Jason Aaron, Renato Guedes (Illustrator)

Wolverine, Vol. 1: Wolverine Goes to HellWolverine, Vol. 1: Wolverine Goes to Hell by Jason Aaron

This was a trippy one. Wolverine wakes up in Hell, but there's no explanation for how he ended up there, at least not at the beginning. You find out dribs and drabs of information as the story goes along, but plenty of disturbing scenes in the process. I can't decide what was more disturbing: Wolverine in Hell or the fact that he was doing his darnedest to send his friends and loved ones there along with him and not getting why. A little bit confusing of a read to me. And just the subject matter was kind of odd. I'm not used to Wolverine being in a metaphysical context (especially with sorcery and demonic possession as a factor.) It was interesting, that's for sure.

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Veil, Volume 1 by Greg Rucka

Veil, Vol. 1Veil, Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Veil" is an effective horror graphic novel from a proven writer in Greg Rucka. It's about a creature who was summoned from dark magic but seems to retain an innocence and vulnerability that makes predators want to prey on her and protectors want to keep her safe. The artwork is beautiful but also disturbing. The prevalence of sewer rats will creep out those with musophobia. They have a weird psychic connection with Veil that adds a disturbing connotation to the story. The urban setting adds to the atmosphere of fear in that the urban jungle is full of predators of all kinds. Add a secret group who resorts to black magic to achieve desired goals and the creepy factor gets very high. Although a dark story, there is some light in it that makes the ending satisfying for me. I would read further volumes.

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The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham

The Trophy HusbandThe Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this years ago, but I didn't really remember much about it. Downloading the Kindle and doing a reread was a good move. I liked this quite a bit. I miss the books where the heroine is a plain Jane. That trope doesn't seem as popular nowadays. The heroine tends to be exquisitely beautiful now more than anything, at least in my opinion. Sara wasn't really a plain Jane. She just wasn't tall and model Slender and blonde. Alex certainly had a very powerful obsession with her. Everyone could tell he was in love with her, except Sara. I like when the hero is crazy about the heroine, but she's a bit oblivious (but not in a she thinks she's too good for him kind of way). Alex is definitely a Lynne Graham hero but he's not quite as arrogant as some of hers run. He seems a bit more vulnerable. I think there would have been less trouble for them both if he had just been honest with Sara about being in love with her. Instead, he was sending out all these mixed signals and getting mad at her because he thought she was still stuck on her ex-fiance.

Glad I did a reread when I did.

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Taggart's Woman by Carole Mortimer

Taggart's WomanTaggart's Woman by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I don't think I was really in the mood for this when I read it. Sometimes I think I'm in the mood for old school HP and maybe I want something more modern and vice versa. Sometimes you want the best of both worlds. Maybe I wanted that when I read it. What I did like was that it's not toe-tipping on some issues and it was surprisingly frank in the fact that Heather's aunt-in-law was cheating on her husband and everyone knew it but the uncle. And his reaction towards the end when there is a huge potential tragedy. Oh, wow!

I felt like Daniel was mean to Heather and you don't understand why. When you find out, it's kind of like, a weird, out of nowhere explanation. Heather's father was pretty awful. People like that shouldn't be parents. He made a choice to be in Heather's mother's life and to be a father to Heather. But he treated her like crap because she wasn't the son he wanted. What kind of man does that? Heather deserved better, and I kind of hate that her marriage had a similar tone of not being able to make her husband happy either, and his unwillingness to tell her what his deal was with her. I'm at a crossroads right now in my rating. I would have rated it highly if I wasn't as dissatisfied with Daniel's meanness towards Heather. Let's face it. A mean hero is par for the course with vintage HPs, but I have to be in the mood for it. I think I'll give this 3.5/5.0 stars. It's good and has quite a bit to offer, but in the end, it wasn't completely satisfying in all ways.

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Island of the Heart by Sara Craven

Island of the HeartIsland of the Heart by Sara Craven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a ho-hum read for me. I didn't like the characters all that much. Flynn is a mean jerk for most of the book. I can deal with a jerk hero who seems to be head over heels for the heroine and that's why he's a jerk. In this case, it was hard to believe he was so crazy in love with Sandie. His excuse for how he was treating her was pretty darn lame. Sandie seems very immature. I really didn't like that one point she seemed like she was considering having an affair with Crispin even though she knew he was married. I just can't stomach adultery and while Sandie is young and inexperienced, I disliked that she was even thinking about getting with Crispin for a hot minute. Other than the characters not being likable, there's really not enough substance to this story for my tastes. While music is always an appealing element to a story, the music didn't add that much to it for my tastes. I am a pretty big fan of Sara Craven, but this one left me underwhelmed. It wasn't terrible, just not anything that stood out in this book for me.

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